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You may want to think twice before taking the elevator to your office or ordering in for lunch. New research has found that small periods of activity which add up to 30 minutes a day worth of exercise can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical activity.
That research found that small increments of exercise, even as short as one or two minutes at a time, can help to prevent metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as long as the exercise adds up to a half hour a day.
"Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes," said Paul Loprinzi, assistant professor at Bellarmine University and lead author of the study. "We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking."
Additionally, researchers found that 43 percent of people who participated in short activity bursts met a 30-minute-a-day threshold for exercise. On the other hand, just 10 percent of those who exercised for longer periods met that threshold.
"This is a more natural way to exercise, just to walk more and move around a bit more," said Brad Cardinal, study co-author and an professor of social psychology of physical activity and co-director of the sport and exercise psychology program. "We are designed by nature as beings who are supposed to move. People get it in their minds, if I don’t get that 30 minutes, I might as well not exercise at all. Our results really challenge that perception and give people meaningful, realistic options for meeting the physical activity guidelines."
The researchers say that the short bursts of activity are more conducive to fit the schedules of busy workers who may not otherwise have the time to do so. Those short bursts of energy can be as simple as walking around the office or doing push-ups and sit ups during a commercial break when watching TV. However, the researchers caution that short periods of activity do not help very much in weight loss.
"In our society, you will always be presented with things that entice you to sit or be less active because of technology, like using a leaf blower instead of a rake," Cardinal said. "Making physical activity a way of life is more cost-effective than an expensive gym membership. You may be more likely to stick with it, and over the long term, you’ll be healthier, more mobile and just feel better all around."
The research was based on the responses of 6,000 adults and was published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.